Archive for February, 2011

Cutting-edge technology drives discovery

The Georgia Research Alliance invests in cutting-edge research tools at its partner universities to drive innovative research and development.  These laboratory discoveries, in turn, often become the platforms on which new companies are created.

Today,  two of those investments — advanced cryo-electron microscopes —  were unveiled at Emory University.

One of the microscopes, equipped with phase plate technology, is one of only two such instruments in the United States and just a few in the world. Both instruments use cryo-imaging, which offers layer-by-layer views of a frozen specimen, providing ultra-high-resolution.

The instruments will be located at the Robert P. Apkarian Integrated Electron Microscopy Core (located in Emerson Hall), under the supervision of core director Elizabeth R. Wright, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and a Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator.

“We are excited about establishing Emory as a center for cryo-electron microscopy and looking forward to making these resources available to investigators at Emory and within the region,” Wright says.

February 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm Leave a comment

Nanoparticles may be step to long-lasting immunity

From Emory Health Sciences News

Virus-Mimicking Nanoparticles Can Stimulate Long Lasting Immunity

ATLANTA–Vaccine scientists say their “Holy Grail” is to stimulate immunity that lasts for a lifetime. Live viral vaccines such as the smallpox or yellow fever vaccines provide immune protection that lasts several decades, but despite their success, scientists have remained in the dark as to how they induce such long lasting immunity.

Scientists at the Emory Vaccine Center have designed tiny nanoparticles that resemble viruses in size and immunological composition and that induce lifelong immunity in mice. They designed the particles to mimic the immune-stimulating effects of one of the most successful vaccines ever developed – the yellow fever vaccine. The particles, made of biodegradable polymers, have components that activate two different parts of the innate immune system and can be used interchangeably with material from many different bacteria or viruses.

The results are described in this week’s issue of Nature.

“These results address a long-standing puzzle in vaccinology: how do successful vaccines induce long lasting immunity?” says senior author Bali Pulendran, PhD, Charles Howard Candler professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and a researcher at Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

“These particles could provide an instant way to stretch scarce supplies when access to viral material is limited, such as pandemic flu or during an emerging infection. In addition, there are many diseases, such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and dengue, that still lack effective vaccines, where we anticipate that this type of immunity enhancer could play a role.”

The Emory Vaccine Center, established in 1996, is a GRA Center of Research Excellence and is directed by GRA Eminent Scholar Rafi Ahmed.

Read More>

February 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm Leave a comment

Brain’s “reward center” responds to bad experiences, not just good ones

GRA Eminent Scholar Joe Tsien at Georgia Health Sciences University and his colleagues at East China Normal University suggest that the so-called reward center of the brain may need new name.  They have shown that both good experiences — like eating chocolate — and bad ones — like thoughts of falling off a building — trigger dopamine neurons.

“We have believed that dopamine was always engaged in reward and processing of hedonic feeling,” Tsien said. “What we have found is that dopamine neurons also are stimulated or respond to negative events.”

How memories are created, stored and recovered — and potentially erased — is an important part of the work that is the focus of the GHSU Brain & Behavior Discovery Institute, where Tsien serves as co-director.  Read more here>

February 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm Leave a comment

Blue-ribbon panel tapped to judge GRA/TAG Business Launch Competition finals

GRA and the Technology of Association of Georgia have lined up an all-star panel of judges for the 2011 GRA/TAG Business Launch Competition finals on May 24, 2011.

The judges — a mix of highly successful serial entrepreneurs, out-of-town and local investors — are:  Bob Bozeman, General Partner, Angel Investments, LP, San Francisco, CA; John Glushik, Investing Team, Intersouth Partners, Durham, NC; Wayne Hunter, Managing Partner, Harbert Management Corporation, Birmingham, AL; Allen Moseley, General Partner, Noro-Moseley Partners, Atlanta, Georgia; Tripp Rackley, Senior Vice President, Qualcomm, Atlanta, Georgia; Ron Verni, former CEO, Sage Software.

Now in its sixth year, the competition is designed to help local startup companies take a leap forward.  GRA and TAG created the competition to promote high-tech entrepreneurship and assure that Georgia startups are primed for success.  Competition finalists compete for a prize package of cash and services valued at $450,000.

The final round follows preliminary screening and a semi-finals round.  “Competing companies describe the interaction and feedback they receive from the judges throughout the competition as a key element to the  experience,” said GRA’s CEO Mike Cassidy.  Read more here >

February 18, 2011 at 10:49 am 1 comment

Monkey vs. AIDS

GRA Eminent Scholar Guido Silvestri, M.D., and his colleagues at Emory’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center are looking to sooty mangabeys to understand better the immune system’s response to HIV infection.  

When SIV, a simian form of HIV, infects these Old World monkeys, the virus’s attacks on the immune system don’t cripple it as an HIV infection does in humans.  The researchers believe that sooty mangabees and other non-human primates are key to understanding why HIV causes AIDS in humans — ultimately bringing us closer to a vaccine for HIV/AIDS.  Read more here >

February 17, 2011 at 10:43 am Leave a comment

MedShape Solutions wins national award

Medshape Solutions, a GRA VentureLab company that develops and sells shape memory orthopedic devices, today announced that it is a winner of the Tibbetts Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration.  According to a company news release, the award is presented to “small businesses and individuals who represent excellence in achieving the mission and goals of the Small Business Innovation Research — SBIR — Program.”   The award honors projects that bring federal R&D from the lab  to the market.

To date, MedShape has introduced two shape memory orthopedic devices, with initial applications in the repair and reconstruction of injured and worn ligaments and tendons.  The company’s platform technology was originally developed at Georgia Tech.

“MedShape’s Tibbetts Award is further validation of the early investments the Georgia Research Alliance made to help develop the technology and build a successful company around it,” said Michael Cassidy, GRA’s president.

Company president and CEO Kurt Jacobus and Jack Griffis, Medshape’s vice president for research and development, accepted the award at a ceremony this morning at the White House.

February 15, 2011 at 10:28 am Leave a comment

Damballa announces $12 million investment

The GRA Venture Fund, LLC  joined other investors in a $12 million investment in Damballa, a GRA VentureLab company.   Damballa, generated from technology developed at Georgia Tech, searches for “bot armies” — armies of computers commandeered to commit fraud.  See full story from today’s Atlanta Business Chronicle below.

Damballa sniffs out $12M raise
Atlanta Business Chronicle – by Urvaksh Karkaria

Atlanta web security firm Damballa Inc. has raised $12 million as it makes inroads into the white-hot mobile and cloud computing markets.

The Georgia Tech spinoff has developed technology that sniffs out “bot armies” — scores of computers remotely hijacked to commit fraud. Damballa is named after the voodoo snake god that protects against zombies and is a play on the fact that compromised computers commandeered for fraudulent activity are referred to as “zombies.”

Damballa, which has raised nearly $30 million since launching in 2006, needs capital to launch products and keep pace with demand, CEO Val Rahmani said.

“Our pipeline is more than 16 times what it was a year ago,” said the former IBM executive told me prior to Friday’s public announcement of the raise.

The company employs 55 and plans to boost its workforce by more than 50 percent this year.

The $12 million raise was led by Washington, D.C.-based private equity firm Paladin Capital Group. It included follow-on financing from existing investors Sigma Partners, Palomar Ventures, InterWest Partners, GRA Venture Fund, Imlay Investments, and Blumberg Capital.

Rahmani declined to disclose the privately held Damballa’s financial information. When asked if the company was profitable, she said, “we’re getting there.”

Damballa markets to enterprise, Internet Service Providers and telco networks. Its software detects and terminates targeted attacks, botnets and advanced malware that conduct fraud, engage in industrial espionage, and steal corporate data and customer credentials. Damballa officials estimate that criminal operators control 10 percent of corporate IT assets.

Botnets are a very large problem, said Lance Weatherby, startup catalyst at the Advanced Technology Development Center.

February 11, 2011 at 5:55 pm Leave a comment

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